The Value of GNP

Katrin Bennhold points us to this wonderful Robert F. Kennedy quote:

Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Bennhold adds:

Economic growth, even where it looks impressive, seems to be creating fewer jobs than in the past, and for the most part, poorly paid ones. The main metrics for economic success now appear to be decoupling from labor markets, the main source of income and meaning for citizens.
Nouriel Roubini, a professor of economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University, underlined the point last week at a London conference on the future of work. “The share of labor in the economy is collapsing, and that will continue,” he said.
…But over all, [Carl Benedikt Frey] said, “It seems that job creation is not going to keep pace with automation.”
If so, the disruption will run deep. “If there isn’t a job for every citizen, then what does it mean to be a citizen?” asked Ngaire Woods, professor of global economic governance at Oxford.
…Jeremy Rifkin, author of “The Third Industrial Revolution,” said a basic income would enable people to volunteer their time in areas like elder care, child care, culture and the environment.

Raising children, editing Wikipedia, and creating free software are just huge sources of economic value created by volunteer efforts. We could maybe even have the zero-scarcity utopia, except for the web of institutional power that will prevent it :(


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